Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Kawaii Japanese for everyday life

Sushi

The English language is no stranger to being infiltrated by loan words from other languages. As far back as the days of Old English, when there was enormous influence from the Viking invaders, English has always found room for new words and more ways to express similar concepts (e.g. maternal and motherly) and this continues […]

Indebted to…Italy

Indebted to... Italy

Try this experiment: think of a word, any word, that we use regularly in English which has clear Italian origins before reading on. Ready? It’s more than likely you’ve come up with a gastronomic term – a snap poll I took last week placed pizza, spaghetti, and cappuccino as front runners (along with ciao, which […]

Keep your friends close, and your false friends even closer

False friends

As an English speaker learning French, it is always a relief to come across a familiar word and to be able to guess its meaning without having to trawl through a bilingual dictionary: restaurant, hôtel, accompagnement. The English equivalents haven’t strayed too far from the French words they derived from, so it’s simple to work […]

Let’s just “call a cat a cat”

Cat

Just a few weeks ago Christine Lindberg explored phrases and idioms that revealed the somewhat surprising way in which the English language describes man’s best friend. But what about that equally popular household pet – the beloved, fluffy, crazy cat? (Those three adjectives are among some of the most popular in the English language to […]

The Oxford Chinese Dictionary is online!

Chinese characters

Chinese characters not displaying properly? Oxford University Press is excited to announce the online launch of the Oxford Chinese Dictionary, a landmark publication that has already established itself as the must-have printed companion of students and teachers of Chinese around the world, since it was published in 2010. But how is a Chinese dictionary made? […]

‘Muzyka’ around the ‘terre’: Earth Day and the Oxford Language Web

Oxford Language Web: music

If you didn’t already know, this Friday is Earth Day, an environmental awareness day celebrated around the world each year on 22 April since 1970. The Earth Day Network is looking for a billion separate ‘acts of green’ to be pledged and carried out by individuals aiming to reduce their carbon footprint and to promote […]

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Are Chinese characters pictures?

Have you ever wondered if Chinese characters began life as ‘pictures’ of physical objects? If not, what is the meaning of the symbols and do they hold any significance? As a non-native speaker of Chinese, I’m often asked about this. The subject is of interest to many, not just those who study Sinology. While some […]

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Ancient roots—from acre to Zeus

Sanskrit

What, a language quiz might ask, links acre as a name for a measure of land (recorded in Old English, and coming from Germanic) with the name of the Greek god Zeus? Or candy (with its Arabic ancestry) with pepper (coming to Europe via Greek)? The answer—all have related forms in Sanskrit—opens up a fascinating […]

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